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Unwrapping the Holidays

Unwrapping the Holidays

Before Thanksgiving, two sixth-grade girls approached me to ask if my first-graders could make ornaments for the Christmas tree in the library.

I replied, "We have been learning about four different winter celebrations: Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas in Mexico, and Winter Solstice, and we are in the process of making a book about each celebration. We could put our books in the library for other children and teachers to read as our contribution." The sixth-grade girls were persistent and still wanted to know if I would have my students make ornaments.

"I don't think so," I said, and then returned to my classroom.

I remember wondering if I would be depriving my students of something by my decision, but in my heart I felt I was doing the right thing. I was teaching them that not everyone celebrates Christmas, that there are many celebratory practices in the month of December, and that each celebration is richly marked with unique customs and beliefs. Not making Christmas ornaments would not rob my students of anything — except the belief that only Christmas occurred in December.

Thinking back to the Christmas tree in the library and feeling that holiday decorations should reflect diversity, I decided to speak with my principal, Oscar. Referring to the decorations in the library, I emphasized that I thought public areas in the school should reflect as much diversity as possible. Oscar was very supportive but he cautioned me that many staff members might not agree with my opinions.

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